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Olivero: “A performance like this is a really important stepping stone for the team”

We caught up with Jayce Olivero as he reflects on Gibraltar’s 1-0 defeat to Ireland, looks ahead to Tuesday’s friendly against Estonia and more.

A second half goal from Jeff Hendrick sealed a 1-0 win for Ireland over Gibraltar, Jayce Olivero reflected on the game – “I think yesterday‘s performance against Ireland was a very positive performance for the team. We were disappointed to not have got something more from the game and considering the good chances that we had it’s a bit disappointing that we weren’t able to get any points from the game. Nevertheless, the team had a great performance and all the things that were given to the team during the training camp, were implemented into the game and it worked well for us, so that’s something that was really positive to see. Obviously as always there are things to improve on but I think we really made a big step and competed against a big nation like Ireland. I think a performance like this is a really important stepping stone for the team and will really help us to just keep on improving game by game and day by day.”

After a 4 month break, International football returned to the Rock. We asked Jayce how it felt to be back playing at the Victoria Stadium, “It was truly great, it was an amazing feeling to see all the fans gathered again. It just brought back all the emotions that we experienced during the nations league, especially in the home win that was a really proud moment for us. It was great to step out onto our home pitch again for the first game of the Euro Qualifiers and see all our fans supporting us and cheering us on. It was a different feeling to perhaps many times before. There’s a strong sense of belief and hope, which really helps the team. Playing at home is something that is truly special to the team and the fans. It’s great!”

Next up for Gibraltar is an international friendly against Estonia on Tuesday at the Victoria Stadium. We asked if he feels they can get a result after a positive display against Ireland, “Well they are quite a familiar opponent for Gibraltar. I think that the team has really put in a good shift every time this fixture has been played. We have taken a lot of things from our previous games against Estonia. We have had positive performances against Estonia in the past, but we must keep on working and our hunger to improve will translate onto the pitch. We have improved a lot since our last encounter, but there are still many things that we can improve on. Performances like yesterday will just give us that motivation to keep on improving and striving for better. We all believe that we could perhaps get something out of this game, which is why we aim to give everything to get something out of it.”

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Hendrick cracks resilient Gibraltar

A positive performance from Gibraltar was undone by a second half goal by Jeff Hendrick as Ireland secured an unconvincing 1-0 win.

After weeks of uncertainty, international football returned to the Victoria Stadium. Ireland got the game underway with their fans singing loudly in the background.

Liam Walker found himself with some time on the edge of the box and his quickfire shot was block, there were shouts for a penalty but the Greek referee waved play on.

Ireland nearly found themselves infront on the 15th minute, a free-kick nearly found the 6ft 4″ of Shane Duffy but there was too much pace on the ball and it went out for a Gibraltar goal-kick.

Joseph Chipolina’s clearance was blocked by his own team-mate Jayce Olivero, the loose ball was crossed in and Roy Chipolina’s header nearly found its way into his own net if it wasn’t for an excellent reflex save by Chino.

Quick play by Ireland saw Seamus Coleman receive the ball in the box, his low cross nearly found David McGoldrick but Roy Chipolina intercepted and cleared the danger.

The Greek referee blew the whistle for half-time with the score at 0-0, a positive performance so far by Gibraltar.

Gibraltar got the second half underway and straight away won a corner thanks to Tjay De Barr. Liam Walker delivered the ball into the box and Roy Chipolina rose above his marker and looked certain to score but an unbelievable save from Darren Randolph kept it out.

Three minutes later and Ireland made it 1-0, McGoldrick got in-behind Roy Chipolina and cut the ball back to Jeff Hendrick who placed his shot into the bottom corner.

With just over an hour gone, Gibraltar made their first substitution with Adam Priestly replacing Louie Annesley – just before that, Lee Casciaro shot wide from inside the box.

Joseph Chipolina went on one of usual runs, dribbled past two players and played the ball out to Liam Walker whose shot from range was excellently blocked by Richard Keogh.

Gibraltar made their second substitution on the 77th minute with Alain Pons replacing Anthony Hernandez – an attacking move as they searched for an equaliser.

Ireland continued to control the game, saw out the three added minutes and walked away with an unconvincing 1-0 win.

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Gibraltar begin Euro Qualifiers against Ireland

Gibraltar kick-start their Euro 2020 Qualifying campaign when they host Republic of Ireland at a sold-out Victoria Stadium this evening.

Photo © William Gracia

The two sides meet for the first time since 2015, when Ireland won 4-0 in Faro. Both teams have new managers and new faces within the team since then, and this evening’s game is the first European Championship qualifier to be hosted on the Rock.

At yesterday’s press conferences, both managers were in good form as they looked forward to the game – for Mick McCarthy it is his second debut as Ireland manager, and he’ll be looking to repeat his first competitive game in his first stint as manager, when Ireland won 5-0 against Liechtenstein back in 1996.

Julio Ribas spoke passionately about the importance of having these games back in Gibraltar, and emphasised the importance of the Gibraltarian fans in supporting their team – both sides will have healthy support with Ireland bring a strong contingent over, which should make for a cracking atmosphere.

The weather will be an interesting factor in today’s game as well – the Irish press who were gathered at the Victoria Stadium yesterday all noticed how windy it was at the ground, and with a severe weather warning issued until Sunday, the game should be played under less than ideal conditions.

Neither manager, as expected, gave much away in terms of team selection – Ribas never tends to show any of his cards to the press – but McCarthy did hint at Seamus Coleman making his 50th cap for the national side from the start, while up front there is the potential for Sean Maguire of Preston leading the line.

Betting:

Unsurprisingly, Ireland are heavy favourites at a best price of 1/18 to win, while Gibraltar are as big as 50/1 to pull off a shock victory – the draw is 20/1 which shows how heavily the bookies fancy Ireland to get off to a victorious start.

There is potentially value to be had elsewhere in the betting though – if Sean Maguire does start then 15/4 for him to score first would be a good price, while for Gib, Joseph Chipolina, top scorer in the Nations League for his side, and expected to be on penalties should Gib get one, is as high as 33/1 to score at any point in the match.

Finally, if you are looking for a correct score bet, a repeat of the 4-0 in Faro is 6/1, while if you fancy Gib to repeat their heroics from the Armenia match, then 1-0 Gibraltar is a whopping 125/1.

FG’s Predicted XI:

Gibraltar: Goldwin; Sergeant, R. Chipolina, J. Chipolina, Olivero; Anthony Hernandez, Bardon, Walker; Casciaro, De Barr, Pons

Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Duffy, Egan, Stevens; Arter, Whelan, Hourihane; McClean, Brady; Maguire

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Sergeant: “Preparation has gone according to plan”

We caught up with Jack Sergeant to talk about Gibraltar’s preparation for their opening game against Ireland, the feelings within the training camp and more.

Since last year’s friendly win over Latvia, Jack has cemented a spot in Gibraltar’s defence. Four months after Gib’s last competitive game, we asked Jack how it feels to be back with the squad – “It feels good to be back and training with all the team. To be honest since the Nations League finished, everything has gone by really quick and now it is time to compete in the Euro Qualifiers.”

Jack took time out of his busy schedule with West Didsbury & Chorlton to travel back to Gibraltar and link up with the squad. With the Ireland game just around the corner, we asked how the preparation has gone – “We have been training for over a week together now and preparation has gone according to plan. There’s a good atmosphere around the team and we are prepared for the game on Saturday.”

After a positive Nations League campaign which saw Gibraltar pick up two wins and finish third in their game – we asked how the team is feeling going into the Euro Qualifiers, “Overall I think we performed well in the Nations League, taking away a few moments in games. The team is in a good spell at the moment with a mix of younger and older players blending well. Every match we play, we will try & get the best result possible and hopefully cause some upsets in the coming Euro Qualifiers games.”

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25-man squad picked for upcoming internationals

Gibraltar Head Coach Julio Ribas has announced a 25-man squad for Saturday’s Euro Qualifier vs Republic of Ireland, and Tuesday’s friendly vs Estonia, both at the Victoria Stadium.

Photo © William Gracia

The squad picked is very similar to the one chosen for November’s Nations League matches, although after impressing since joining Lynx, Brad Power is back in the national team – the defender will be hoping, as well as Dayle Coleing and Ethan Jolley, to make their senior debut in either of the two games.

After worries that several key players may have to miss out after picking up fresh injuries, Ribas’ appears to have a reasonably full-strength squad at his disposal – although the likes of George Cabrera and John-Paul Duarte are not in the final squad, it isn’t known if that was due to fitness reasons or personal choice from Ribas.

The squad have been training for a few days now but away from the public eye, with Ribas clearly holding his cards close to his chest as he tends to – while Ireland trained on an artificial pitch yesterday in their home country to try and acclimatise to the surface being used on Saturday.

Gibraltar take on Republic of Ireland at 6pm on Saturday – while tickets have been long sold out, a free fan zone has been created in Casemates for those who wish to watch the game, while the game is on both GBC, and Sky Sports Main Event. Of course, you can also follow our coverage of the game on our Twitter account – @FGScoreCentre.

Gibraltar squad to take on Republic of Ireland (Euro Qualifier) and Estonia (Friendly):

Goalkeepers:

Matt Cafer (Gib Phoenix), Dayle Coleing (Europa), Kyle Goldwin (Gib United)

Defenders:

Louie Annesley (Blackburn Rovers (ENG)), Erin Barnett (Gib United), Ethan Britto (Mons Calpe), Joseph Chipolina (Lincoln Red Imps), Roy Chipolina (Lincoln Red Imps), Jean-Carlos Garcia (Gib Phoenix), Ethan Jolley (Europa), Aymen Mouelhi (Gib United), Jayce Olivero (Abingdon United (ENG)), Brad Power (Lynx), Jack Sergeant (West Didsbury & Chorlton (ENG))

Midfielders:

Anthony Bardon (North Texas SC (USA), Andrew Hernandez (St Joseph’s), Anthony Hernandez (Lincoln Red Imps), Jeremy Lopez (Gib Phoenix), Alain Pons (Lincoln Red Imps), Liam Walker (Europa)

Forwards:

Lee Casciaro (Lincoln Red Imps), Jamie Coombes (West Didsbury & Chorlton (ENG)), Tjay De Barr (Europa), Adam Priestley (Ossett United (ENG)), Reece Styche (Alfreton Town (ENG))

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Tjay De Barr set to join Real Oviedo in the summer

Europa and Gibraltar striker Tjay De Barr has reportedly signed a pre-contract agreement with Spanish Segunda Division side Real Oviedo.

Photo (c) William Gracia

De Barr, who has broken onto the local football scene in some style, has had trials in both Portugal and in Spain with Oviedo’s division rivals Las Palmas, but it is believed the 19-year old has opted to sign for the Asturian team, currently 8th in the Segunda, one point off the playoffs, after they moved quicker than their rivals to secure his signature.

The striker, who scored the opener vs Armenia in the Nations League last year, has caught the eye massively this season and, following the move of Louie Annesley to Blackburn earlier this year, is another boost to local football with more young talent being spotted and presented opportunities at professional sides away from the Rock.

De Barr joined Europa from Lincoln, with Lincoln reportedly set to receive a fee from Oviedo for developing the youngster in his formative years, and this season has scored 13 goals in 22 appearances for his current club – who he will leave after their European qualifiers should they qualify for either tournament. With chances to win the league and cup still available, the striker will no doubt look to leave Europa on a high before joining Real Oviedo.

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Cyprus beat Gibraltar in U21 opening qualifier

Gibraltar started their European Under-21 Championship Qualifying campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Cyprus thanks to a second half goal from Spurs midfielder Jack Roles.

Gibraltar head coach David Ochello handed debuts to Ethan Santos, Jaydan Parody, James Parkinson and Patrick McElwee while Bradley Banda retained his goalkeeper role and Gibraltar United’s Michael Negrette was appointed captain.

Gibraltar got off to a good start with Kian Ronan and Jaydan Parody causing trouble but just before the 20th minute, Cyprus midfielder Costas Anastasiou hit the crossbar.

Just before the break, Cyprus were awarded a penalty which Bradley Banda save to keep the score 0-0 at half-time.

Eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, Spurs midfielder Jack Roles opened the scoring to give Cyprus a 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute. The hosts continued to control but couldn’t find a way past Banda.

The referee blew the final whistle in Larnaca and Cyprus walked away with a slender 1-0 win.

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Banda: “U21s is a transitional phase from youth football to senior football”

Ahead of Gibraltar’s U21 opening game against Cyprus this Wednesday, we spoke to goalkeeper Bradley Banda about his preparation and more.

With only two days until their opening game against Cyprus U21, we asked how preparation has gone for the European Qualifiers – “We’ve been preparing for this game really for almost 2 months now, training once a week with those players who have been allowed to train by their clubs. This definitely has benefited us in absorbing the information the coaches are trying to get across to us as we’ve had more contact time with the coaches than if we would only meet up at the international break. We’ve got a few players studying at University in the UK who have had to catch up once introduced into the squad but they have picked up the pace quickly.”

The U21 squad has been in Cyprus since last Saturday, we asked how the team are feeling going into Wednesday’s game – “It’s a new group with many new faces, and for some the first time ever involved with international football. Everyone’s up for it, they’re excited and ready to get the new campaign underway. It’s a good group we have been drawn into and the opportunity to play with some of Europe’s best such as Portugal and Netherlands is incredible. Going into the game on Wednesday Vs Cyprus I think there’s a sense of belief and confidence that we can and will get a positive result, we haven’t come here to let them walk all over us.”

Bradley is one of a couple players which are still eligible from last year’s UEFA U21 campaign, the goalkeeper would be seen as one of the more experienced players from this current squad. We asked Bradley what he will be passing down to those younger players who will be making their debuts, “Just to emphasise the reality of the level of football that they will be playing at. U21s is a transitional phase from youth football to senior football, the players we come up against are all playing first team football for professional clubs. Mistakes will happen it’s part of the game and at this level its merciless, its how we react to these mistakes that will matter, that never give up mentality has to kick in. Having confidence in your own ability is important. We all know the level of ability we are at as individuals but as a group working for each other and leaving everything out there on the pitch we’re much stronger. At the end of the day its 11 v 11 and anything can happen in 90 min. We have done it before in our 1-0 win over Macedonia a year and half ago and we can do it again.”

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Zuniga: “It is going to be a hard game as they also want the Rock Cup like us”

We spoke to Mons Calpe defender Francisco Zuniga about beating St Joseph’s, drawing Gibraltar United in the Gibtelecom Rock Cup semi-final again and his sides season so far.

Zuniga scored the opening goal in Mons Calpe’s 4-1 win over St Joseph’s in the Gibtelecom Rock Cup quarter-final, we asked how he felt the team played, “It was a great game for me, to score and the team, to win. We knew from the beginning that it was going to be a tough game, I think we performed well and made the most of our opportunities.”

A repeat of last season’s semi-final draw sees Mons Calpe take on Gibraltar United – Pako reacted to the draw by saying, “It is going to be a hard game as they also want the Rock Cup like us. We have played them several times and they’ve always been a tough opponent so I think it’s going to be very interesting.”

Mons Calpe currently sit fourth in the Premier Division table, nine points behind St Joseph’s in third and level with Gibraltar Phoenix in fifth. Zuniga reflected on his sides season so far, “We lost some important points at the beginning of the season that we need now. Apart from that, I think we have had a good season but I feel we could have made it better.”

Lastly, Pako commented on whether he feels there’s added pressure on Mons Calpe to win the Rock Cup – he replied, “I don’t think that we have added pressure to win the Cup. Our goal is to finish in third place at least and I’m calm because I know the kind of players that I play with.”